22/11/2017 13:01 SAST | Updated 22/11/2017 13:01 SAST

Mugabe Might Not Pay For The Pain He Caused In Zimbabawe

Mugabe is gone, but Zanu-PF is still in power, and they are likely to protect him.

Harare residents celebrate in front of the parliament after the resignation of Zimbabwe's president Robert Mugabe on November 21, 2017. The bombshell announcement sparks scenes of wild celebration in the streets of Harare, with car horns honking and crowds dancing and cheering over the departure of the autocrat who has ruled Zimbabwe since independence. / AFP PHOTO / MUJAHID SAFODIEN

Robert Mugabe's resignation as president of Zimbabwe will go down as one of the most important events in African history. His tenure as the leader of the country has been characterised as a reign of terror that leaves a legacy of violence and fear.

In the 1980s, Mugabe spearheaded a brutal crackdown on his political opposition, led by late Zimbabwe African People's Union (Zapu) leader Joshua Nkomo, that claimed more than 20,000 lives. More recently, he is believed to have been involved in various abductions and the oppression of opponents.

Despite this, human rights experts do not believe he will be brought to account for engineering some horrific crimes against humanity.

Southern Africa director with the Africa Division of Human Rights Watch, Dewa Mavhinga, says that Mugabe should be held accountable. However, it is likely he will be protected from prosecution by the very same people who took him down.

"It is possible, but unlikely, that this regime will hold Mugabe accountable," Mavhinga told HuffPost on Wednesday. "They are likely to protect him, so that they do not expose themsleves."

He explains that Mugabe has a long history with Zanu-PF and incoming interim president Emmerson Mnangagwa.

"There is no doubt, no question that there is a need for accountability for violations committed by Mugabe, but there is no radical shift in leadership –– the military and Emmerson Mnangagwa were his colleagues," he said.

According to Mavhinga, even if there were some kind of retribution against Mugabe, it would be "selective", as both Mnangagwa and the defence force were "complicit in the human rights violations".

The only kind of justice that could be suitable, according to Mavhinga, is a method of restorative justice, which already exists in Zimbabawe.

"The National Peace and Reconciliation Commission needs to be operationalised. Civil society groups have been calling for it to be put into use –– now is the opportunity," he said.

"The shortcomings of South Africa's TRC [were] that they focused more on the crimes committed by the foot soldiers than exposing the atrocities."

Zimbabwean human rights lawyer and Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) senator Doug Coltart concurs with Mavhinga's view,s saying a truth and reconciliation commission should be formed to deal with the violations against civilians during Mugabe's presidency.

"Information about what happened to all the people who were abducted has to be revealed, and if there has to be some kind of amnesty, it's okay," Coltart said.

He also said that in carrying out the commission, Zimbabweans should learn from the mistakes made in South Africa's Truth and Reconciliation Commission process conducted after apartheid.

"The shortcomings of South Africa's TRC [were] that they focused more on the crimes committed by the foot soldiers than exposing the atrocities."

He does admit that the commission did "solve the issues to a certain extent", and admitted that "South Africa would have been worse off if there was no commission".

Also Read: Robert Mugabe: From Liberator To The Walking Dead

Meanwhile, National Director Jacob van Garderen of Lawyers for Human Rights said holding Mugabe accountable should be high on the agenda.

"There should be a discussion between political parties, and they must not exclude civil society. If they ignore it [holding Mugabe accountable], it will be at their own peril, and it will come back to haunt them," he explained.

He believes that if the reconciliation process is done thoroughly, it could be beneficial for the country.

"They can learn form South Africa –– the process was very important for us. There just needs to be a more in-depth format. In South Africa, we left the process when the commission came to an end –– and it was only the beginning."